Pressure Sensors: The Design Engineers' Guide

The varying applications of pressure sensors

Pressure sensors are used for many automotive, medical, industrial, consumer and building devices, which depend on accurate and stable pressure measurements in order to operate reliably. As more industries rely on pressure sensors to monitor and control their applications, demand for these technologies has greatly increased, putting estimations of the worldwide pressure sensor market at $11.4 billion by 2024.

Here’s how recent innovations in sensor technology are enabling smarter, safer, and more environmentally friendly electronics for businesses and consumers alike.

Automotive applications

In automobiles, hydraulic brakes are a crucial component in passenger safety. The ability to control a vehicle using brakes is down to a complex blend of components, including pressure sensors. These can be used to monitor pressure within the chambers of the braking system, alerting drivers and engine management systems alike if pressures are too low to be effective. If pressure inside chambers is not measured, systems can fail without the driver knowing and lead to a sudden loss of braking efficacy and accidents.

Until recently, airbags were solely designed to inflate inside of vehicles for the front two passenger seats in the event of a collision. Now, car manufacturers have created airbag innovations inside and outside of vehicles that release faster, resulting in safer outcomes for passengers in any seat and pedestrians too. They have also found ways of making the driving experience safer for the planet; bringing down engine emissions, by re-circulating exhaust gases.

Learn more about the life-altering and eco-friendly applications of pressure sensors for automotives.

Life-saving medical applications

Raising the air pressure in a sealed chamber containing a patient is known as hyperbaric therapy. It can be effective for treating a number of medical conditions, from skin grafts, burn injuries, and carbon monoxide poisoning to decompression sickness experienced by divers.

Measuring blood pressure correctly is crucial to patient care, as errors in readings can lead to a misdiagnosis. Thanks to recent innovations, tiny pressure sensors can even be implanted into the body, known as In Vivo Blood Pressure Sensing for more accurate monitoring.

Learn more about the medical advances being made with pressure sensors.

Automated building applications

As building and home automation technologies become increasingly popular, pressure sensors continue to play a central role in controlling the environments we live in. Refrigeration systems are one such example. Common coolants in HVACs like ammonia can cause significant danger to people in the event of a leak. Using relative pressure sensors to monitor the pressure of the ammonia as it passes through the system ensures it stays within safe limits.

Controlling large building environments is a challenge for designers and operations staff alike.

Learn more about how pressure sensors are improving building control interfaces and monitoring systems.

Life-enhancing consumer applications

The things we use, carry and wear on a daily basis are growing in intelligence. Adding a pressure sensor to a consumer device can provide new information for an improved user experience.

Take vacuum cleaners, or example. By measuring suction changes, they can detect what kind of flooring is being cleaned and adjust settings accordingly, or notify their owners when a filter needs replacing.

Learn more about consumer devices that are becoming smarter with the use of pressure sensors.

Industrial applications

Submersible pressure sensors can be used to measure liquid pressures (up to 30 PSI) with either a voltage or current (4-20mA) output in liquid tanks. By positioning these sensors at the bottom of a tank, you can get an accurate reading of the contents in order to alert workers or the process control system when levels in the tank fall below safe limits.

Learn more about how pressure sensors empower smart factories.

Pressure sensors are a fast-moving area of technology, and advances are transforming products across a number of industries, with safer outcomes for both people and planet.

What else are pressure sensors used for?

Find out more in our articles on applications in automotive, building automation, consumer and wearables, medical and industrial applications.

Pressure sensors: 10 innovative automotive applications.

Pressure sensors: 8 Life-saving medical applications.

Pressure sensors: 8 building automation applications.

Pressure sensors: 11 Life-enhancing consumer applications.

Pressure sensors: 3 applications enabling smart factories in Industry 4.0.

Looking for more on pressure sensor technology? Check out the further chapters of this guide below, or if you're pressed for time you can download it in a PDF format here.

Need some advice on pressure sensors?

Our pressure sensor experts are on hand to help you make the right choice for your application.

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Need a more digestible introduction to pressure sensors? Download the white paper, 'Pressure sensors: Design considerations and technology options'.

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Pressure Sensors Chapter 1 GBL

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Chapter 1

How pressure sensors work

An introduction to pressure sensors covering the different types, how they work, their function, construction, and what to consider in your design choices.

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Chapter 6

The core pressure sensor technologies

What’s the difference between the different pressure sensor technologies? And how do you know which one to use?

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Chapter 3

The different types of pressure sensors

Discover how pressure sensors vary according to the type of pressure measurement, sensing principles, output signal, media, MEMS technology, mounting and more.

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Chapter 7

Pressure sensors for different media types

An in-depth guide to pressure sensors for different media types. Learn about the technology, applications, different options, their specifications and their limitations.

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Chapter 4

Pressure sensor output signals

Sensors, transducers, or transmitters? The right selection is important for your application. So what's the difference and how do you choose between them?

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Chapter 8

Pressure sensing in harsh environments

An in-depth guide to pressure sensors for harsh environments - designing for extreme temperatures, high pressure, and corrosive and dynamic environments.

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Chapter 5

Types of pressure measurement

What’s the difference between absolute, gauge and differential pressure sensors? And how do you know which one to use?

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Chapter 9

Understanding specifications

Explore the datasheet and the different factors affecting the accuracy of pressure sensor readings. Discover how to make the right choice for your application.

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